IPL 2023: Kohli’s art a voice of sanity amid all the new age batting

There was always a chance that Kohli may reach the three-figure mark this season— given the way he was hitting the ball throughout

Virat Kohli (Photo Courtesy: @imVkohli/Twitter)
Virat Kohli (Photo Courtesy: @imVkohli/Twitter)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A second orange cap is not something that Virat Kohli actually cares for at this stage of his career— unless, of course, it helps the Royal Challengers Bangalore to stay in pursuit of that elusive IPL title. The master chaser, however, has now placed himself in sight of that with a 100 as the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad was treated to a batting masterclass on Thursday night.

There was always a chance that Kohli may reach the three-figure mark this season— given the way he was hitting the ball throughout. The consistency and domination of the bowlers, which had been a hallmark of some of the best years of his batsmanship (remember 2016 when he totalled an almost obscene 973 runs?) was evident from the fact that he has had six half-centuries before these innings so far.

‘’A job well done,’’ was all that Kohli tweeted as social media was agog with praise for what was his sixth IPL century— putting him at par with ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle in terms of the number of centuries. This also officially ended his four-year drought of centuries in the league, with the last one coming in 2019 against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

The mid-table joust for the playoffs, which is nearing its climax at the end of this week, needed RCB to definitely win this match and hope for an encore against the table-toppers Gujarat Titans at home on Sunday. Now in fourth position, the Challengers have a superior run rate than the Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders and stand a fair chance to squeeze in as the fourth team even if they finish on 14 points.

At a time when strike rate becomes a major criterion for a batter’s appraisal in the T20 format, even Kohli has not been spared of criticism for scoring his runs at a slower clip (135.86) this year. Yes, it was inferior to the 152-plus that a younger Kohli had logged in during that 2016 season, but there should be some premium in the quality of batsmanship on view.

It was vintage Kohli with all the shots in the book— still very little of those audacious ones in the arc between the third man and fine leg that one sees these days. ‘’I try to play risk-free cricket and am not really bothered with personal landmarks at this stage of my career,’’ Kohli told the broadcasters later.

Much as though his in-your-face aggressive nature on the field often strikes a sour note, the signature Kohli style of batting is like a voice of sanity. It’s not that he doesn’t have modern shots in his arsenal as a slog sweep for a six showed, but it was a lofted extra cover drive off Bhuvaneshwar Kumar which had everyone— from a Faf du Plessis at the non-striker’s end to Sunil Gavaskar & Ian Bishop gaping in awe at the comm. box.

As Kohli walked back to the dugout, the entire RCB camp was up on it’s feet in a gesture ready to touch his feet. The smile of satisfaction was back on his face— so different from the bemused smile Kohli wore as he was induced to those nicks from bowlers barely a year back.

This was Kohli the entertainer at his best!

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